Chief rabbi backs Ivanka Trump’s rabbi in conversion row
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Chief rabbi backs Ivanka Trump’s rabbi in conversion row

Day before Israel’s Supreme Religious Court to rule, David Lau says he doesn’t know why local rabbinical court shot down conversion by Rabbi Haskel Lookstein

Marissa Newman is The Times of Israel political correspondent.

File: Ashkenazi chief rabbi David Lau, July 24, 2013. (photo credit: Flash90/Yonatan Sindel)
File: Ashkenazi chief rabbi David Lau, July 24, 2013. (photo credit: Flash90/Yonatan Sindel)

The Ashkenazi chief rabbi on Tuesday said Israel’s Chief Rabbinate recognizes the credentials of US Orthodox Rabbi Haskel Lookstein, who converted Ivanka Trump to Judaism and officiated at the wedding of the Republican presidential candidate’s daughter.

Lookstein’s authority was challenged last month by an Israeli rabbinical court that refused to accept as Jewish one of the women he converted. The American woman, named Nicole, who had an Orthodox conversion in New York with the NY-based rabbi and was engaged to an Israeli man, had her status as a Jew rejected by the local rabbinical court in her fiance’s hometown of Petah Tikva in Israel after the two tried to register for marriage.

The rabbinical court at the time insisted it “did not find the rabbi in question as authorized to perform conversions,” according to the Ynet news website, ruling that the woman needed to go through the conversion process in Israel.

Nicole’s case is up for appeal on Wednesday before the Jerusalem-based Supreme Religious Court.

American immigrant Nicole and her Israeli fiancé Zohar (courtesy)
American immigrant Nicole and her Israeli fiancé Zohar (courtesy)

In a letter to Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein and opposition leader Isaac Herzog, David Lau on Tuesday stressed that the Chief Rabbinate and the rabbinical court that nixed a conversion by Lookstein were distinct from one another.

The rabbinate recognizes Lookstein and his conversions, Lau wrote, according to the letter published on the ultra-Orthodox Kikar HaShabat website. “I do not know on what basis the rabbinical court made its decision,” he wrote. Regarding Nicole’s appeal, he maintained that he was “convinced the position of the Chief Rabbinate will be presented during this appeal.”

Rabbi Haskel Lookstein vowing to rebuild on the night a fire at Kehilath Jeshurun caused major damages at his New York synagogue, July 11, 2011. Lookstein, who has guided the modern Orthodox shul since his father's death in 1979, will be stepping down at the end of this year. (Michael Loccisano/Getty Images/via JTA)
Rabbi Haskel Lookstein vowing to rebuild on the night a fire at Kehilath Jeshurun caused major damages at his New York synagogue, July 11, 2011. Lookstein, who has guided the modern Orthodox shul since his father’s death in 1979, will be stepping down at the end of this year. (Michael Loccisano/Getty Images/via JTA)

Nicole told The Times of Israel this week that the entire affair had turned into “a nightmare.”

“I just want to get married, I want to start my life. They [the Petah Tikva rabbinate] are putting my whole life on hold,” Nicole, 31, said in her first interview since the media storm erupted. “My fiancé is religious, I am religious. I want my children to be considered Jewish… That’s the whole point of the conversion,” said Nicole. “I am Jewish, it’s not fair that I would be considered otherwise. It’s very frustrating, I want to cry. All I want to do is have a Jewish family.”

Jared Kushner and wife, Ivanka Trump, attending the 'Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology' Costume Institute Gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, May 2, 2016. (Mike Coppola/Getty Images for People.com, via JTA)
Jared Kushner and wife, Ivanka Trump, attending the ‘Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology’ Costume Institute Gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, May 2, 2016. (Mike Coppola/Getty Images for People.com, via JTA)

The case has been given extensive media coverage, largely due to Lookstein’s ties to Trump and the implication that she may not be recognized as Jewish in the State of Israel.

Amanda Borschel-Dan contributed to this report.

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